Breaking Ground in March
One of the largest specialty medical practices in Alabama has just reached a major decision to combine two clinics and relocate to the 280 corridor.
In March, Cardiovascular Associates (CVA) will break ground on a new building in the Colonnade to serve as their centralized clinic. CVA will close their Brookwood and Trinity campus offices when the new building opens in March 2012. The CVA Shelby office will remain open, along with outreach offices in Sylacauga, Talladega, Oneonta, Clanton, and Pell City.
"There are definite advantages to a campus site," says Jerry Chandler, MD, and president of the practice. "You walk a few feet, and you're in the hospital to check on patients. But you also miss the camaraderie of a central site. We can go weeks without seeing each other from the different sites.
"The big reason to be back together, though, was to offer all our patients the most advanced technologies," Chandler says, citing their Cardiac PET-CT as the main draw. "It's a phenomenal tool; extremely accurate for noninvasive evaluation of coronary disease. But it was only at one campus. At a central site, all patients coming for diagnostics have access."
With fifty percent of their patients coming from outside Birmingham, Cardiovascular Associates began seeking a location more accessible to the main freeways. In the past few years, they've looked at over 20 sites and just signed the final contract last month. "Most of our patients use 459, and now they can get to us from most origins without having to get on 280," Chandler says.
The new 65,000-square-foot facility will stand near the lake at the back of the Colonnade by the hotels. Parking will surround the building. "No decks," Chandler says. "It's fascinating. But the top two complaints for any doctor's office are parking and wait time. We're addressing both of those."
The architects, Giattina Aycock Architecture Studio in Birmingham, have been studying the workflow within the practices for months. "They're interested in not just the building, but in how we function, our process," Chandler says. "They've been measuring our patient flow for the better part of a year, gathering data. They've studied how many times a patient has to move. Right now our patients sit and wait, move, then sit and wait some more."
The study resulted in CVA shifting from this common push method of patient flow to one of pulling. "In the pull system, a patient begins in the process only when the next mechanism is ready to receive a patient," Chandler says.
Currently, a patient moves from the main waiting room as soon as a triage chair opens up, only to return to a waiting room until a physician is ready. Under the new patient flow system, a pull signal triggers the staff to move a patient into triage for vital signs about the time a physician signals he has just finished with the current patient.
This coordinated timing means the patient and physician arrive in the exam room at almost the same time. "We don't pull you from a major to a minor waiting room. We pull you from check-in straight to your clinical experience," Chandler says.
In the new building, that means very few sub-waiting areas, with all the rooms arranged to minimize retracing of steps. "Right now, we retrace our steps over and over," Chandler says. "There's not a flow. It's more like a congestion."
Exam rooms will be family-friendly. At curvilinear tables, physicians, patients and family can sit together and view results on the computer screen. "It's a close, interactive space," Chandler says.
CVA plans for widescreen TVs in each exam room as well. As the physician reviews the chart outside the door, the nurse can program an educational piece for the patient to view. Though essentially paperless now, the practice will be completely digital in the new building with computers in every room.
CVA partners are currently working on the building's external design. "We're still discussing the style and external materials, though it will likely be modern in character. We're trying to make it as green as possible," says Chandler.
The challenge for the future of their practice, says Chandler, results from the surge of baby boomers coming their way. "It's going to be about how efficiently you can see patients without wasted time. Modern medicine has not done a good job of that. We wanted to design a building where it all flows well from the moment a patient drives up, where we see more patients more efficiently, so we can spend more face-to-face time with them."